OKLAHOMA CITY (CBSMiami) – When the Miami Heat walk onto the court in Oklahoma City to battle the Thunder in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the term must-win should be on the mind of each and every member of the Heat.
Already down 1-0, the Heat faces incredible odds if the Thunder can take a 2-0 lead in the series as it returns to Miami. Since 2000, there have been seven NBA Finals when one team takes a 2-0 lead. Six out of seven times, the team up 2-0 wins the title; the lone exception being the 2006 Heat.
The Heat’s main goal will be to slow down the deadly duo of Thunder forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook. Combined, the two stars scored 63 points in the Thunder’s victory in Game 1.
Westbrook may be the easier of the two to corral. Durant’s scoring average and shooting percentage has increased in each round of the playoffs. He scored 17 huge points in the fourth quarter that helped seal the win for the Thunder.
One of the Heat’s usual defensive stalwarts, Dwyane Wade, was largely ineffective against the Thunder’s speed in Game 1. Wade has been battling a knee injury for much of the playoffs. He had to have it drained in the Conference semifinals, but it still seems to be limiting him.
The biggest player, literally, the Heat need to get going in Game 2 is Heat power forward Chris Bosh. After returning from his injury, Bosh has been used off the bench. While the strategy worked against the Boston Celtics, it proved ineffective in Game 2.
“How we use Chris might be a little more like we used him during the regular season,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told the Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick.
Bosh hasn’t complained about coming off the bench, but he’s likely to return to the starting lineup for Game 2.
“I think I’m in good enough shape,” Bosh told the Post. “Like I keep saying, there’s only so many games left in the regular season. So I’m willing to lay everything out on the line.”
The overall tone from the Heat coming out of the Game 1 loss is aggressive. Wade and Bosh have vowed to be more aggressive in Game 2. Increased scoring from Wade and Bosh will lighten the load on LeBron James and allow him to devote more energy to covering Durant.
Keep an eye on Wade’s point totals because the Heat is just 12-11 all-time in the playoffs if he fails to score 20 points, including Game 1 Tuesday night. But the toughness of the Thunder at home is going to be tough to overcome.
The Thunder has gone 9-0 at home during the postseason to this point. The last team to finish the postseason undefeated at home in the playoffs was the Chicago Bulls in 1996.
Game 2 of the NBA Finals won’t be decided by individual players though. It’s going to be a battle to see how much the Heat have left in the tank and if the Heat can bring their A-game, can the Thunder withstand the punch to the gut.
Game 2 tips off at 9 p.m. Thursday night in Oklahoma City.